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Thread: Operas by Handel on DVD, Blu-ray, and CD

          
   
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  1. #61
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Keep going HC, love it!

    One critic on Amazon also mentioned Cornelia's opening aria in Curtis Cesare as being a let down, will have to revisit this. In the mean time I discovered I have another Cesare CD set that I had forgotten about.



    This is really a female dominated cast with Cesare and even Tolomeo sung by mezzo, time to dust it off and give it another listen

  2. #62
    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    I guess this really wasn't an opera originially, and the story is a bit static. So, the addition of dancers mirroring the lyrical content makes sense. I had no problems with the vocals. I guess my problem was with the lyrics. I don't care if partial credit went to Alexander Pope or not, but silly lyrics like "Happy We" repeated over and over made me long for Italian, French or even Urdu. Anything but English.

  3. #63
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    CD 1 of Alan Curtis' Version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto

    Rather than me listening and comparing the whole recording, I thought I shall I write down my thoughts so far on CD 1 of this recording. I have yet to finish listening to CD 2 and 3.

    Overall Sound Quality
    The orchestra led by Alan Curtis was the period instrument band Il Complesso Barocco. Although the orchestra was relatively small, deploying a standard modern use of a Baroque orchestra (four 1st violins, four 2nd, two violas, two cellos and one bass), the recording had a very "big sound". The mircrophones were obviously placed both at the instruments and also surrounding it because one could hear the independent oboes and basson supporting lines in many instances, and also the violins playing their chords at the end of some arias as if the players were right in front of you. The echo of the recording location (not disclosed as far as I am aware) was actually well balanced with the microphones placed extremely close to the instruments and voices. So from the sound quality overall, like many modern studio recordings, was rather artifical in the sense that you might not hear as an audience a little distant away in an opera theatre, but technically very impressive sounding when played on a good hi-fi equipment and as if you were one of the players or even the conductor seated in front. I would give this a high distinction in terms of recorded sound, and surpassing my other favourite on sound; namely, Rene Jacobs' version on Harmonia Mundi. I have every known recorded version of this opera performed by period instrument bands released on CD and this recorded sound was the best so far.

    Marie-Nicole Lemieux
    Contralto MNL sang Cesare. My personal preference, as deployed here, was to use a contralto or mezzo-soprano instead of a countertenor to sing the demanding role of Cesare. Without getting into a debate why, I still think a non-falsettist taking this role is best; that's not to say countertenors cannot or should not do the job. But I have been more impressed by Jennifer Larmore for example and yes, even a female voice can sure sound much more masculine than a countertenor. I was extremely impressed by MNL right from the start. The great coloratura aria Presti ormai l'egizia terra (track 3) winned over Larmore's, in my humble opinion. MNL had an incredible range and she blasted through the aria apparently effortlessly and with menancing pronunciation of the words and conveyed it more dramatically than all version of this I have heard, including Sarah Connolly on DVD. Countertenors have never impressed me terribly much as they just lacked sufficient fire to blast arias like Presti ormai. Likewise the great aria Va tacito e nascosto (track 26) was tackled with regal caution and suspicion. So overall, we have a great singer here for Cesare so far.

    Romina Basso
    The only relatively "weak" performance I think, on CD 1 was Cornelia's aria Priva son d'ogni conforto (track 7). This was sung by contralto Romina Basso. This was a beautiful aria and the only tragic character in the entire opera who sang the most beautiful tragic arias. But I thought the accompaniment was a little dry and as if performing note for note. Patricia Bardon (Glyndebourne/William Christie production) sang this aria most movingly that I can recall from all the versions I have listened to at first instance.

    I shall post more later, especially about Karina Gauvin as Cleopatra's best arias appear after Act One when her character gains more momentum in development.
    CD 2 & 3

    Karina Gauvin
    A Cleopatra with a strong voice and with a bit more vibrato than I am used to but all in good measure. One of my favourite arias was Piangerò la sorte mia (CD3 track 7) and was expressed quite nicely. It was one of those arias that tested the abilities of the soprano lamenting her feelings but with a fiery middle section of the da capo aria. Likewise, no complaints with Da tempeste il legno infranto (CD3 track 15). A minor reservation concerned Cleopatra's seduction scene where I thought the orchestra could have played with a bit more legato during the sinfonia that connected to her famous aria V'adoro, pupille or to "warm up" the seduction a little more, as it was one of the best scenes in the whole opera. Gauvin's voice overall had the maturity lacking in Danielle de Niese's, although this might be questionable consideration the character in the opera was supposedly to be a lot more younger than Cesare.

    Other Singers
    Emoke Barath
    Sesto's arias are full of fire, except the beautiful lamenting duet Son nata/o a lagrimar/sospirar with Cornelia that closed Act One. The latter was one of the most moving arias of the whole opera but again, I thought there were better alternatives including the popular Glyndebourne/Christie. Barath conveyed the firey and vengeful undertones of her character but I have heard stronger versions of some arias elsewhere.

    Filippo Mineccia
    The only countertenor in the recording singing a substantial role. Adequate but the strongest Tolomeo I have ever heard was Derek Lee Ragin (Harmonia Mundi/Rene Jacobs) who often sang true staccato, which in a role like Tolomeo's, I thought would better depict the character's treachery. Mineccia's vice was a lot stronger however than other countertenors, such as Christopher Robson's (Harmonia Mundi DVD/Blu-ray/Lars Ulrik Mortensen).

    Johannes Weisser
    A strong baritone who sang Achilla, which I enjoyed. I often think Achilla got better arias than Tolomeo and in all the versions that I have the baritones never failed to impress.

    Overall, I think singers are well up to the standards, and my favourite is Marie-Nicole Lemieux singing the hero. The singers sing with a touch more vibrato but in good measure and taste. My only reservations are a couple of lamenting arias of Cornelia's that could perhaps be expressed with a bit more legato. These arias must look very "sparse" on the physical score but Handel was utterly a composer of the human voice and both conductor/leader and singer would need to bring it out with a little more. First rate recorded "big sound" overall. Note that this version excluded the single lovely aria of Nireno's that was included in Jacob's by way of appendix and Christie's by way of introduction to Act Two.

    Yes, this is an essential version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto to have for any lover of opera and of course, fellow Handelians.

  4. #64
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Yes, this is an essential version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto to have for any lover of opera and of course, fellow Handelians.
    A reason to celebrate, one of the great italian baroque operas with over 30 arias in excellent modern sound.

    I don't like to be too generalized but the "art" of baroque singing and orchestral playing has advanced in last 20 years since Jacobs and Minkowski versions, the singing is often more sophisticated and inspired, the recitative lines and music continuo are more varied and interesting etc

  5. #65
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    It is still a source of great sadness to me that Nikolaus Harnoncourt was not allowed to complete the recording of Giulio Cesare that he began in the 1980's; a CD of highlights is all that remains. While Paul Esswood is nowhere near firm enough in the title role(like HarpsichordConcerto, I also prefer a strong mezzo as Cesare), the rest of the cast was superlative. The most impressive are perhaps the two mezzos Ann Murray and Marjana Lipovsek, as Sextus and Cornelia, respectively. Murray's 'Cara speme' is the best I have heard(she sings the entire da capo sotto voce, with devastating emotional effect), and Lipovsek's 'Priva son d'ogni conforto' is quite moving, due to the intense emotion conjured by both singer and conductor. Roberta Alexander is not the first soprano that comes to mind when Cleopatra is mentioned, but her 'Da tempeste' is very good, and 'Se pieta di me non senti' is quite beautiful. And to my ear, the Vienna Concentus Musicus are the ideal orchestra for this score, with their ability to portray the widest range of emotions in tones now sumptuous and rich, now dry and keening. What might have been!
    Last edited by Jephtha; December 24th, 2012 at 07:00 PM. Reason: To insert the name of one of Cleopatra's arias

  6. #66
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    During my seasonal traversal of my Messiah CD sets I was reminded again why I love the Christie/HM version so much, such a wonderful set of soloists and warm sound blossoms very nicely, sometimes the choral forces float above like a heavenly choir of angels.

    The counter tenor used here is Andreas Scholl and he has the most sublimely beautiful sung passages, velvetly smooth voice that glows like tupelo honey.......not the most dramatic counter tenor but the sheer beauty of his angelic voice is mesmerizing

    I sold my older CD version to buy the newest "digibook" release (pix 2) which comes in a handsome hardbound cover with 100+ pages of nice photos and background info




    Andreas Scholl from above version:


  7. #67
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I'll be watching this shortly, and will be posting a review. For now I'm watching ice hockey on TV... low brow vs. high brow entertainment, what to pick?

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #68
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    I'll be watching this shortly, and will be posting a review. For now I'm watching ice hockey on TV... low brow vs. high brow entertainment, what to pick?

    Hockey schmokey, watch the Teseo, it's rather cute.
    Natalie

  9. #69
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    Hockey schmokey, watch the Teseo, it's rather cute.


    Teseo on DVD, opera seria in five acts by Handel premiered in 1713, to an Italian libretto by Niccolo Francesco Haym.

    Oh well, the hockey game went to overtime, it got too late, I got tired. Today I am watching the Teseo. Oh! My! God! This is some seriously good HIP ensemble, and these are some seriously good singers!!! And all unknown names. It goes to show how fame is a question of luck sometimes, because these people could be singing to great success in any major house!

    As it is, it comes from a small theater, the Schlosstheater im Neuen Palais, in Potsdam, Germany (apparently, a gorgeous, newly restored ancient theater). The HIP ensemble is the Lautten Compangney Berlin, conducted by Wolfgang Katschner.

    Technically awkward product. You pop it in, it starts playing right away without a menu to select sound track and subtitles. They are available, though. You have to hit the pop-up menu key on your DVD player's remote, and then the menu does show. I've selected LPCM and French subtitles, since I've been warned that the 5.1 track is unbalanced, and that the English subtitles are awful. Still, the LPCM track is also unbalanced. I think it's a question of microphone placement. Singers aren't heard very well once they move to certain parts of the stage. Colors and image definition are OK but not great. So, it's a technically limited product. But oh wow, what great singing and playing!

    Image is 1.78:1, running time is 166 minutes. ArtHaus Musik release of 2005, region 1 only (USA and Canada). Subtitles in original Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Chinese. There is a feature that allows you to display the score while you watch the opera but I did not make use of it (our musician friends may like this feature). Addendum - OK, I did restart with this feature on after I finished seeing the opera and it is very intrusive, it occupies all of the screen, and everything else can only be seenunder a translucent film. Anyway, maybe this is good for student singers or student conductors, so I guess it's a plus that it is there, but it's definitely not something regular opera lovers will want to turn on).

    Jacek Laszczkowski is Teseo (with a less meaty, thinner, smaller voice and pitch control problems in his top - but his timbre is pleasant). All males are sopranists. Martin Wölfell is Egeo and he does very well, has a voice a bit darker than your usual countertenor. Thomas Diestler is Arcane (also with a darker but less impressive voice). Maria Riccarda Wesseling is Medea (excellent, a force of nature; she nails the role perfectly both in singing and acting, and what a beautiful voice!). The other two females are Miriam Meyer as Clizia (good) and Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as Agilea (also excellent). Overall, this cast is great (since even the singers who don't perform technically as well at least have pleasant voice timbre). Acting is nice, a bit over-the-top in purpose with some rather funny comic relief at times. Looks-wise, these people are not atractive (except for a cute and sexy Miriam Meyer), but it doesn't get in the way, given the good singing and acting - see for instance, Teseo's and Medea's duet in Act II, very nicely done. There is a small and good chorus.

    Here is a picture of Miriam (she is the protagonist of a rather sexy and funny scene, in bed with Arcane):



    The staging directed by Alex Köhler is with simple and minimalist sets designed by Stephan Dietrich - some sliding panels, a large black bed, dark chairs, not much more than that. Costumes are also simple - some gowns, breast plates, some jewelry and golden crowns, and not exactly set to Ancient Greece which is when the opera is set. There are some fun weird touches, like Medea's costume (it's made of... hair! and the bed covers are hair as well) and her red-colored arm. The ending has some nice touches too ("tuto finito" displayed by two cute women). So, it's a limited budget production, but with great musicians and singers, and some inventiveness. Makes one wonder what else is done in these small German opera companies that we never get to see; we're probably missing out on some good quality opera by these regional ensembles in the multiple German houses.

    The opera itself, his fifth, is not considered to be a major Handel work. Regardless, it's pleasant enough, since nothing composed by Handel fails to sound beautiful, especially when well played and well sung like here.

    Recommended, a grade A musical performance with modest means (a B staging, technically deficient as a DVD). Just the opportunity to hear how well this HIP ensemble plays is worth the purchase, in spite of a relatively spicy price of $28.18 on Amazon.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 12th, 2013 at 05:27 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #70
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Giove in Argo on CD



    Giove in Argo, pasticcio in three acts (premiered in 1739), sung in Italian
    Music by George Frideric Handel, made up of music and arias from a dozen of his previous operas plus some new music (in addition to these, there are two arias from Italian composer Francesco Araja)
    Libretto by Antonio Maria Lucchini, previously set to music by Francesco Araja - Handel attended the opera (Jupiter in the performance attended by Handel was sung by Senesino), liked it, and recycled it all with his own music.

    Il Complesso Barocco conducted by Alan Curtis - the period instrumentalists and the conductor do an excellent job.
    Studio recording with excellent sound quality, in three CDs (runtime 157 minutes), a 2013 release by Virgin Classics, beautifully presented in a rigid box.

    The full libretto in Italian with side-by-side English translation is provided. The documentation is excellent with all the necessary elements (track lists with names of the numbers with durations and characters, excellent synopsis, and informative essay, all in English, French, and German, with beautiful art work and color head shots of the artists.

    The outstanding, flawless cast includes Ann Hallenberg as Iside, Karina Gauvin as Calisto, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani as Arete (a.k.a. Giove, the god Jupiter of the title role), Vito Priante as Erasto, Theodora Baka as Diana, and Johannes Weisser as Licaone. There is no need to comment upon each voice: they are virtually all excellent.

    The opera itself (one of Handel's three pasticcios organized by the composer himself) is a thing of beauty, given that it cannibalizes some of Handel's best music. I can't understand why it failed in London after only two performances at the time of its creation. Subsequently it got lost, and was only rediscovered recently. Its first modern performance was in 2009 at Bayreuth during their Baroque festival.

    With the rather perfect package and talented musicians, singers, and conductor, this product is highly recommended (A++) and an obligatory purchase for the Handel fan and for all lovers of Baroque opera. It is a bit pricey on Amazon ($31.78) [click here] but worth every penny. Had I heard this a couple of days ago, I'd have nominated this one as best CD of a complete opera for the 2013 International Opera Awards.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  11. #71
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Agrippina on DVD



    Agrippina, drama in three acts sung in Italian (December 26, 1709 - uncertain, could have been early 1710) - Premiered in Venice, Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo

    Music by George Friderich Handel
    Libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani

    La Grande Ecurie et La Chambre du Roy (HIP), conducted by Jean-Claude Malgoire
    Stage Director Frédéric Fisbach
    Sets Emmanuel Clolus
    Costumes Olga Karpinsky
    Video Director Tiziano Mancini

    Recorded at Théâtre Municipal, Tourcoing, France, March 2003

    Cast

    Agrippina (soprano) - Véronique Gens
    Nerone (male alto) - Philippe Jaroussky
    Poppea (soprano) - Ingrid Perruche
    Claudio (baritone) - Nigel Smith
    Ottone (male alto) - Thierry Grégoire
    Pallante (bass) - Bernard Deletré
    Narciso (male soprano) - Fabrice di Falco
    Lesbo (bass) - Alain Buet

    This product is a 2004 Dynamic release on two DVDs, 4:3 NTSC image, PCM2.0, DD5.1 and DTS5.1 sound tracks, all regions, 172 minutes of running time, no extras, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish, and liner notes (one brief 2-page essay, not very informative; synopsis) in Italian, English, German, and French. List of tracks with names of musical numbers, characters, and durations is provided, with two color and six black-and-white production pictures.

    Available on Amazon for $36: [clicky]

    -------

    Agrippina is widely considered to be Handel's first masterpiece, and one of his best operas overall, for being lively and generally lighter, with a good libretto full of interesting characters and twists, and as usual given who the composer is, for having great music (I like to say that Handel didn't know how to put two notes together without making them sound beautiful). The real Roman historical character behind the title role - Agrippina the Younger, Nero's mother - was a wild woman, with a dozen high-placed lovers including many emperors, her own brother, and her own son in incestuous relationships, and she was responsible for killing a number of perceived enemies and rivals including husbands and siblings, until her son ordered her killed.

    Christmas party is at 8 PM, it's about 2 PM now, so, plenty of time to enjoy a Handel before the festivities.

    ------------

    It starts very well - the beautiful overture, exquisitely played by the orchestra, opens up the stage to two extraordinary artists: the attractive, sexy, and vocally gifted Véronique Gens, and the spectacular countertenor Philippe Jaroussky who is, as you know, my preferred male singer currently in activity.



    Staging is very compelling, with minimalistic, tasteful and artistically apt sets (for these opening scenes, sliding white panels, white blocs, humans dressed as fake statues on top of the blocs), and imaginative costumes with brightly colored wigs. Bernard Deletré is the next singer to come in, and he doesn't disappoint either, as a correct comprimario.

    The sound - I'm listening to the DTS track - is excellent, all full and resonant, with the orchestra being heard loud and clear but without drowning the singers whose voices come across just as well. Actually I'm spending more time touting the sound because it does feel particularly good in this product, with an acoustic surround environment that reproduces very well the in-house experience. When I saw on the box that the image was 4:3, I expected some outdated-looking product, but regrettable as it may be that this is not widescreen, actually everything is very crisp, with good definition and lighting. Video direction is fortunately of the no-nonsense kind.

    Fabrice di Falco is next, and he isn't bad, but the task of singing a male soprano role on the same stage with one of the greatest countertenors in activity in the person of Mr. Jaroussky is ungrateful, and indeed by comparison he pales next to his vastly more talented colleague - you can't beat Philippe's phenomenal, angelic timbre of voice.

    Acting is purposely over-the-top, for comic effect.

    As an opera, this indeed lives up to expectations. Contrary to some other Handel pieces, this work is fast moving with a hectic pace, and repetitions are kept to a minimum.

    We got another very good singer entering the stage: Thierry Grégoire, although with a smaller voice, also has, like his colleague Jaroussky, very beautiful timbre. Another comprimario is better than the previous one: Alain Buet. Only Ingrid Perruche and Nigel Smith are yet to be heard and seen. So far, so good - no singers are below average.

    OK, Ms. Perruche makes her entrance a bit before the 40' mark. Nice, but both in looks and voice, she is a couple of notches below Ms. Gens. Then we get Mr. Smith who is very decent but fails to greatly impress.

    Oh well, I'm being pulled to help the wife with party preparations. I'm at the 57' mark, about one third of the way, but won't be able to continue to report in detail - however it is pretty clear already, and very unlikely to change, that the assessment here will be of the order of magnitude of A+, highly recommended (two excellent principal singers, tasteful staging, good orchestra, good image and sound, and a great opera, so, what's not to like?). I'll finish watching later (no idea when), and if this assessment changes I'll update this post (but like I said, it's unlikely - there is little that could go downhill when you have a talented team performing a great opera).

    Update - Got a break, things are pretty much ready for the party. Watched some more, almost all now (20' left). It remains excellent. The sets get even more interesting as the acts go by, and the singing and acting remain very good. Yes, definitely A+, highly recommended. A very nice Handel staging without Regie excesses but still very stylish and creative, and like I said, it's musically very good.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); February 13th, 2014 at 11:05 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #72
    Senior Member Involved Member Revenant's Avatar
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    I've just received the Jacobs Giulio Cesare, which I've been meaning to get for some time now. I was a bit puzzled to see the name Furio Zanasi listed as "Achilla, basso". The only FZ I know is the tenor that sang the title role in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo for Savall and then with Rinaldo Alessandrini's Concerto Italiano version. I can't believe anyone can go from basso to tenor except that it involves a rather unpleasant operation, plus hormone shots. Could the first Zanasi be the father or uncle of the second? Sorry if I posted in the wrong place but I stay up nights and I think of this.

    Never try to teach a pig to sing. You will waste your time and you will annoy the pig.

  13. #73
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post
    I've just received the Jacobs Giulio Cesare, which I've been meaning to get for some time now. I was a bit puzzled to see the name Furio Zanasi listed as "Achilla, basso". The only FZ I know is the tenor that sang the title role in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo for Savall and then with Rinaldo Alessandrini's Concerto Italiano version. I can't believe anyone can go from basso to tenor except that it involves a rather unpleasant operation, plus hormone shots. Could the first Zanasi be the father or uncle of the second? Sorry if I posted in the wrong place but I stay up nights and I think of this.

    Furio Zanasi is more of a baritone, and Orfeo can be sung by a baritone (my other DVD has Simon Keenlyside in the title role). Achille can also be sung by a baritone (like Christopher Maltman in the Glyndebourne DVD).

    I suspect in Baroque times they didn't distinguish between bass and baritone, just like they didn't between mezzo and soprano.

    So I think this is the same guy.

    Get some sleep!
    Natalie

  14. #74
    Senior Member Involved Member
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    I have listened live Furio Zanasi as Orfeo with Savall, and confirm what says Soave Fanciulla, he is a Baritone, not a tenor. A very good one in baroque opera according to me. I listened it as Monteverdi Ulisse, too.

  15. #75
    Senior Member Involved Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Thank you both very much. I'm glad he was not harmed, then. I didn't get that baritonal quality, it seems. I thought he was more a Domingo-like baritonal tenor, but one who can sing Baroque. Still have to become accustomed to how Baroque singing blurs some lines. But he's certainly not a "basso". Interesting, all the Orfeos and Ulysses that I know of have been tenors.
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. You will waste your time and you will annoy the pig.

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